Monday, March 28, 2016

Lilianna's prairie dress

Today is my niece's birthday! Being the practical aunt that I am, I asked my sister-in-law if there was anything Lilianna needed.
(She's turning four. She loves Disney princesses, My Little Ponies, dancing like a ballerina, etc...)
"She could always use dresses" was her reply. Of course- we all need clothes! Plus little girls' clothes are always so cute.

I used a simple dress pattern: McCalls 3882. The pattern was for sizes 6-7-8, so I had to draw in for a size 5.

To change it up (and because I had just watched a Craftsy quilting class), I decided to make the front bodice a log cabin quilt block. I've always liked the log cabin pattern. The dress fabric was blue with yellow and red dots, so I used reds in my block.

I did not plan it, but the middle turned out looking like an American flag. I went with it. I made that be the middle, so the log cabin block itself is slightly off center.

My block wasn't perfect. It was my first try.
I'm not perfect; I'm rustic.

Another added step: I used all French seams. For those who don't know, per usual sewing construction, sew right sides together. Using French seams, sew wrong sides together, press seam and then sew right sides together. This added step encases the raw or cut edge of the fabric, creating a more finished seam.

I text my mother-in-law, "I am a crazy lady. I am trying to use only French seams on Lilianna's dress!"
"Oh Colleen! That is so much work!"

It did take some rethinking, but it was something I wanted to do.
Just call me "Crazy Aunt Colleen."

If I do this again, I will cut my log cabin strips thinner, so you can see more of the block.

When I finished, my husband and I both thought it looked like a prairie dress. Does anyone have a bonnet pattern?

You used to be small and quite content sitting in one place.
Now you are tall, can't sit still and are learning to ride your first bike!
Don't grow up too fast.
Happy Birthday, Lilianna!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

new Easter tradition

I said I would make dinner rolls for Easter dinner tomorrow. We're going to my husband's aunt's house. Since I wasn't scheduled to work today at the thrift store, I would have plenty of time to bake. This morning I was called in, but my very wonderful husband said he'd help me.

I needed to make the dinner rolls, but I also wanted to make hot cross buns. I'd never made them before. My Mom would buy them from Wegmans growing up. The rich dough, flecked with candied fruits, drizzled with icing sounded so good to me.

The dinner roll dough just needed punched down a couple times before I came back home, but the buns needed baked.
I quickly shaped the buns and snipped the tops to make a cross. They required an egg wash, too. I set everything up for my husband to mix up the wash. I even put the pastry brush on the counter for the sake of ease.

While I was at work, my husband sent me a picture of the buns fresh out of the oven. He wrote, "Turned out great. They smell good!"

As I opened the door, a heavenly smell filled the house.
I also noticed a hot cross bun missing...

He couldn't wait until I put on the icing. I'm sure he'll be happy to do a comparison. I'll call it payment for his labor.

I think this is the start of a new tradition.
Have a blessed Easter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Your Grampie was a dairy farmer

I just walked over to the barn to fill up our milk pail. I didn't think I'd be this upset that it would be the last time. The cows will be gone soon. Tomorrow maybe. My eyes are filling up with tears.

Why am I getting so worked up about it?

Maybe because our children will never know the smell of fresh manure spread in the fields. That was the first smell I remember when I came to visit my future husband and his family.

Maybe it's because soon the hay loft will be empty and the sweet smell will vanish.

I'll tell our future children: "Your Grampie was a dairy farmer. No matter the weather, no matter the day, he would get up before the sun would rise. Christmas presents were opened after morning chores. For over forty years, he milked the cows twice a day. Countless times he would drive back up to the barn to see if a cow had freshened, check to see if the agitator in the bulk tank was working properly or some such thing.

The pasture fences needed to be mended every Spring and the pipeline cleaned every Summer. Stalls and feed boxes would break, water bowls froze. The silo unloader would quit. The baler would break down. One could count on something going wrong. The cows would cross the road twice a day, sometimes holding up traffic.

The weather report was always checked. Would the fields be dry enough to mow? Would there be enough dry, sunny days to ted and rake hay? Would there be enough help to get it all done? Memories of the hot Summer afternoons trying to toss hay bales from the wagon and Grampie thought that I might die because of how red my face would be and how much I sweat. Summer dinners were always unpredictable. Trying to hay as much as possible pushed back milking; dinner was kept warm until all chores were done.

Hard work was the name of the game. Maybe he'd take a vacation once a year, but no sick days. Your Grampie is a quiet man and he rarely complained. He just plugged along, doing the best with what he had.

Your cousins loved to go to the barn. They would visit the cows and feed them hay. They would get help to climb up on the tractors and pretend to steer. Barn kitties would be toted around the farm, being held by their middles with paws hanging down.

Your Dad and I got married at noon because we wanted to work around Grampie's schedule. We didn't want him to miss it. A handful of cows were due that weekend, which made it even busier. Some were in the background of our wedding photos.

Being near the farm, I really wanted to help out. I would sweep feed into the trough or scrape manure into the gutter. After much pestering, I was allowed to milk a cow named Lolly. I wasn't very good, but it was something I wanted to experience.

There's a picture of your Dad when he was little and Grampie and your Dad wrote, "I feel love when I'm at the barn." Maybe the cows won't be there, but there will still be the memories and love."


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

new beginnings

I heard my husband's alarm go off and him push snooze.
It was then that I forgot to patch his work jeans. Shoot. He had asked me a couple days ago and it completely escaped me. I laid there thinking about it. He got up. I lingered a little longer, then went to the craft room. I made the patch to span half of the right pant leg. I quickly stitched along, and my cat, Alfie, came in to inspect my work and the birds outside. (The bay window in the craft room is one of his favorite spots.)
The jeans were patched in time for my husband to leave for work. One thing checked off the list.

Our laundry basket was overflowing, as in a second pile of dirty clothes heaped up beside it on the floor because it was so full. I knew that today was going to be a nice day, so I strung up our clothesline for the first time this year. It would take several loads to get all the laundry washed, so that meant I needed to make more soap. [In December, I bought a bag of soap nuts and have been using them to clean our clothes. Just a few soap nuts go in a muslin bag, along with the clothes in a warm wash cycle. When I want to use cold water, I use soap nut liquid. I simmer 5-6 soap nuts in a quart of water for 10 minutes and then strain the liquid. I label a quart jar and store the soap in the 'frige.]

The crocuses have come again. The hill behind our house is covered in light purple. Every time I go up to clothesline, I try my best not to step on any. I want them to last as long as possible.

It's only March, so this beautiful Spring weather may not stay long, but I will savor it. The earth is waking up from hibernation and I'm looking forward to new beginnings. <3